Out of the seventeen films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, nearly all have featured top-tier, universally familiar heroes. It makes logical sense that, as a business, Marvel would want to feature the most high-profile characters from their catalog of thousands that have appeared in the comics pages over the past 70 years or so. With only a few exceptions, these characters have also been male, white, and America-centric. On February 16th, however, all of that changes.
Until his appearance in the film Captain America: Civil War, I believe it is fair to say that the average superhero film fan might have heard of Black Panther, but knew little about the character or his history. The new Black Panther: Prelude graphic novel is an excellent way to introduce the rich history of T’Challa, Wakanda, and the Black Panther to those not up on their comics history.
The first half of the book is a new story by writer Will Corona Pilgrim and artist Annapaola Martello that captures a mission of T’Challa’s to deal with trouble along the border of Wakanda as well as mercenaries who unknowingly hold some Wakandan citizens hostage. All of this takes place “10 years ago,” so it gives a bit more background on how long T’Challa has worn the mantle of the Black Panther in the MCU. We are also introduced to several characters that will most likely appear in the film. Martello does a fine job capturing Chadwick Boseman’s likeness for T’Challa and the story leads nicely into what I imagine will be either a flashback or lesson in the history of both Wakanda and the Black Panther’s legend.
The latter half of the book is a collection of stories involving the upcoming film’s primary villain, Killmonger. Now, the history of Killmonger will be somewhat different from the days of Jungle Action #6 in 1973 to today, but the general premise should remain: an exile from his home of Wakanda after aiding Ulysses Klaw in a failed overthrow of the isolated kingdom. Three other issues are included in the collection from the past few decades, including the introduction of Venomm (not that one, this guy handles snakes), the days of Black Panther patrolling the streets of New York in a Spawn-inspired dracula cape, the origins of Black Panther retold in the Marvel Knights collection by Reginald Hudlin and John Romita, Jr., and the current iteration of Black Panther, authored by Ta’Neshi Coates.
In all, this collection gives a robust view of not only Black Panther as a hero, but also his past and present, while giving new audiences an introduction to the villains who will appear in the upcoming film. It is an excellent introduction to what looks to be one of the more impactful films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.